Atlanta Braves: Grading the Atlanta Braves Off-Season

Los Angeles Angels v Oakland Athletics
Los Angeles Angels v Oakland Athletics / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

There were many questions swirling around how the Atlanta Braves would address this off-season. They would have to navigate another fan favorite, Dansby Swanson, reaching free agency and determine if it made sense to bring him back. There were also spaces to fill in the bullpen and in the outfield. With Spring Training right around the corner, let's see how well of a job the Front Office did this off-season.

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos, or AA, has been known to find creative ways to fill the team's needs without breaking the bank. That was certainly the case again this off-season as he addressed most of the team's needs via trade. While many fans likely wanted a big free-agent splash, AA has shown he knows what he's doing.

Let's start with the biggest acquisition of the off-season when Atlanta struck a deal with Oakland to land catcher Sean Murphy. This deal definitely wasn't one that many expected to happy with how well William Contreras and Travis d'Arnaud each performed in 2022. However, AA clearly saw something in Murphy that warranted the three-team trade with Oakland and Milwaukee.

Atlanta traded William Contreras and Justin Yeager to the Brewers and also sent Manny Pina, Kyle Muller, Freddy Tarnok, and Royber Salinas to Oakland. This was a rather large deal to make but the Braves gained one of the best catchers in the game as a result. AA clearly believes that to be true as they offered Murphy a six-year, $73 million contract extension. Very similar to what the Braves did once they acquired Matt Olson last off-season.

Losing a player with the potential that William Contreras has is always a tough decision but when you can land a player that is often compared to being on the same level as J.T. Realmuto. A chance worth taking and Atlanta continues to have one of the best catching cores in all of Major League Baseball. This move is definitely one of the best of the enitre off-season.

The next two trades to touch on were the ones for relievers Joe Jimenez and Lucas Luetge. Jimenez was acquired from the Tigers for minor leaguers Jake Higginbotham and Justin-Henry Malloy. The former Tiger has a lifetime 5.24 ERA across 266 innings of work. In 2022, Jimenez finished the season 3-2 with a 3.49 ERA including 12.2 strikeouts per 9 and a much-improved 2.1 walks per 9 innings. Jimenez still has a year of control left and while he doesn't have the best overall stat line, there's plenty of upside to the move.

Lucas Luetge was another great trade decision made by AA. Luetge didn't pitch in the Major Leagues from 2015-2020 but returned in 2021 with the Yankees. In two seasons with New York, Luetge was 8-6 with a 2.71 ERA in 129.2 innings. Atlanta sent Caleb Durbin and Indigo Diaz to the Yankees in order to acquire Luetge. It's nice to have another talented lefty in the bullpen and a welcome sight since Atlanta lost Tyler Matzek to Tommy John surgery. He joins A.J. Minter and Dylan Lee as a strong pairing of left-handed options for Brian Snitker to choose from.

The last bullpen move to touch on was the addition of RHP Nick Anderson. Itโ€™s a split deal where Anderson will earn $875K in the big leagues and $180K in the minors. Anderson was one of the best relievers in the league in 2019 and 2020. He pitched 81.1 innings over those two campaigns with both the Marlins and Rays. In that time, he had a combined ERA of 2.77 and struck out 42.2% of batters faced with just a 6.5 walk rate.

In 2021, Anderson had just six appearances before going on the IL and eventually underwent surgery to brace his UCL. That recovery took until August 2022 and he spent most of the time pitching in the minors upon his return until a case of plantar fasciitis ended his 2022 stint. This is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Braves and has the potential to be an incredible asset for the team.

A couple of other contract decisions made were a one-year $20 million contract extension for Charlie Morton, a six-year $75 million extension for Spencer Strider, and minor-league contracts for Jesse Chavez and Jackson Stephens. They traded Jake Odorizzi to the Texas Rangers for Kolby Allard, and Texas also sent Dennis Santana to the Braves in exchange for cash considerations.

Aside from acquiring Sean Murphy, the Braves really didn't do much adding on the position player front. That leaves a question mark for Atlanta at shortstop and in left field. They did sign Jordan Luplow to a one-year, $1.4 million contract which gives them another option to consider outside of Marcel Ozuna and Eddie Rosario.

Luplow wasn't the best in 2022 and carried an overall slash line of .176/.274/.361, 78 wRC+, 0.2 fWAR in 83 games, and 2 defensive runs saved in right field in 41 games played there. He spent a little bit of time in left field (22) and center field (5) as well.

Another left-field option depending on his Spring Training performance is former Blue Jay, Kevin Pillar, who was signed to a minor-league contract. The 34-year-old outfielder has potential if he can find the same success that made him one of the best outfielders in baseball just a few years ago.

Other notable moves in the position player department include Ehrie Adrianza signing a minor league deal. The Texas Rangers also traded shortstop Eli White to the Braves for cash considerations.

The Braves did not bring back Dansby Swanson and that left a void in the middle of the infield. Swanson ended up signing a seven-year, $177 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. It appears that the team is banking on Orlando Arcia and Vaughn Grissom filling that position.

Vaughn Grissom made a huge impression on Braves fans when he stepped in for Ozzie Albies. In 41 games, Grissom slashed .291/.353/.440 with a 121 OPS+ including 5 HR and 18 RBI. So, there is reason to believe he could be a fine replacement for Swanson but his defense is the main question mark. At 2B last season, he accumulated a DRS of -3 and -5 outs above average. Not encouraging but also a small sample size so there is room for improvement.

On the other side you have Orlando Arcia, who could also be a serviceable replacement but in 67 games, he only slashed .244/.316/.416 with 104 OPS+ including 9 HR and 30 RBI. Arcia does have a career DRS of 9 but his DRS dropped in 2019 and 2020 at -2 and -4 respectively. The ability to play good defense is there but that trend isn't exactly encouraging.

So, the Atlanta Braves didn't make the biggest moves and yes, the Mets and Phillies drastically improved their rosters. However, the core of this team that has proven their ability to win games, is intact and won't be going anywhere for a long time thanks to the extensions of some great young talent. All things considered the Atlanta Braves front office earns a B- for this off-season.

All in all, the Braves made some great moves for the 2023 season and they'll be just as competitive as ever. There will likely be things to address in season, as injuries and performances will always be something that are tough to predict.